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Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Hannah Fry and Seema Mehta

‘It will absolutely come down to California’: Control of the House hinges on 10 state races

LOS ANGELES — Days after ballots were cast in California’s midterm election, 10 of the congressional races deemed most at risk of flipping remained too close to call.

Those hotly contested races could determine control of Congress or, at a minimum, influence the margin of power. Republicans need to pick up a net of just five seats across the nation to gain a majority in the House of Representatives.

“It will absolutely come down to California,” said David Wasserman, a House campaign analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report with Amy Walter. “It’s the single largest cluster of races that are too close to call. It could remain that way for several days.”

For Democrats to have any hope of holding the House, they would need to oust GOP Reps. Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita or Ken Calvert of Corona, Wasserman said.

Rob Pyers, research director for the nonpartisan CA Target Book, said “the math looks bleak for Christy Smith,” a Democrat challenging Garcia in a northern Los Angeles County district.

“She has to win (nearly) 60% of what’s left and in past election updates, she’s never delivered that kind of performance,” Pyers said.

Other contests being closely watched are districts represented by Republican David Valadao of Hanford and Democrats Katie Porter of Irvine and Mike Levin of San Juan Capistrano, as well as an open seat in the Central Valley.

For many races, such as Porter’s and the open Central Valley seat, the result will be determined by the partisanship of late mail ballots. The speed at which ballots are counted varies wildly around the state. Some races might not be called until Thanksgiving, Pyers said.

The Cook Political Report, which has tracked House and Senate races for decades, had rated five of California’s congressional races as toss-ups and six as particularly competitive.

Ten of those remain in play after GOP Rep. Young Kim defeated her Democratic challenger, Dr. Asif Mahmood, in a largely Orange County district. The outcome was called by the Associated Press on Thursday evening, though final results will still take some time.

Five additional House races in California have yet to be called. Of those, two are guaranteed for the Democrats because only candidates from that party are running, and the other districts are not expected to change party hands.

Here’s where the key races stand:

Congressional District 3

Republican Assemblymember Kevin Kiley and Democrat Kermit Jones, a physician and Navy veteran, are vying for an open seat to represent a largely rural district that stretches nearly 450 miles from Death Valley up through Plumas County.

Kiley, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, was ahead of Jones 53% to 47% as of Friday in the district that strongly leans right in voter registration.

Congressional District 9

Democratic Rep. Josh Harder is trying to fend off a challenge from Republican Tom Patti, who serves on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors. San Joaquin County makes up the majority of the largely agricultural district, which is centered on Stockton.

When redistricting broke up his current district and the Democrat incumbent in the new 9th District announced he would retire, Harder decided to run here.

Harder was ahead of Patti by 56.3% to 43.7% as of Thursday evening.

Congressional District 13

Democratic Assemblymember Adam Gray and Republican farm owner John Duarte are vying for an open seat in this heavily agricultural, perpetual battleground district in the Central Valley. While Democrats have a significant voter-registration edge over the GOP, low turnout among Democrats and Latinos have made races tighter.

This contest remains the tightest in California. Duarte was just slightly ahead of Gray, 50.05% to 49.95%, as of Friday.

Congressional District 22

Republican incumbent David Valadao is being challenged by Democratic Assemblymember Rudy Salas in this heavily blue-leaning San Joaquin Valley district, which includes portions of Kern, Kings and Tulare counties.

Valadao, who was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, was ahead of Salas, 52.5% to 47.5%, as of Friday.

Races in this district are notoriously tight. In 2018, publications across the state initially declared Valadao had won reelection against a Democratic challenger. However, the results reversed as ballot counting continued, and Valadao conceded the race in early December. He won a rematch two years later.

Congressional District 26

Democratic incumbent Rep. Julia Brownley is facing a challenge from Republican Matt Jacobs, a former federal prosecutor, in this largely Ventura County-based district.

Brownley was ahead of Jacobs, 54.3% to 45.7%, as of Friday.

The district became slightly less friendly to Democratic candidates after redistricting, which excised Ventura, a Democratic stronghold, and brought in conservative-leaning Simi Valley. But Democrats still have a significant advantage in voter registration.

The district, where agriculture and veterans’ services rank among the top issues, also includes Calabasas, Moorpark and Oxnard.

Congressional District 27

Incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Garcia and former Assemblywoman Christy Smith, a Democrat, are vying to represent this northern Los Angeles County district that until 2018 was a GOP stronghold.

Garcia was leading — 56% to 44% — as of Friday.

Republicans lost the House seat in the 2018 midterms, but won it back in a special election in 2019, when Smith and Garcia faced off for the first time. In the 2020 general election, Garcia defeated Smith by 333 votes.

Although the race has not been called, Garcia declared victory Wednesday, writing in a statement that he’s “honored to be reelected to serve another two years in Congress.”

Congressional District 40

Republican Rep. Young Kim fended off a challenge from Democrat Dr. Asif Mahmood to secure a second term in Congress. The two had faced off to represent an affluent, suburban and mostly inland Orange County district that spans from Mission Viejo north to Yorba Linda and includes sections of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Congressional District 41

Rep. Ken Calvert, the longest-serving GOP member of California’s congressional delegation, and Democrat Will Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, are vying to represent this Southern California desert Inland Empire and Coachella Valley district, which includes Corona, Palm Springs, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage, Lake Elsinore and Norco.

As of Friday, Calvert was ahead 50.6% to 49.4%.

The district was long considered a GOP stronghold, but has grown less conservative in recent years because of the influx of young and minority families seeking affordable housing. Redistricting also added some Democratic voters when Palm Springs, which has a sizable LGBTQ population, was drawn into the district.

Congressional District 45

GOP Rep. Michelle Steel and Democrat Jay Chen, a member of the Board of Trustees for Mt. San Antonio Community College and a Navy Reserve intelligence officer, are vying to represent this competitive district that was created to empower Asian American voters.

Steel was ahead of Chen 54% to 46% as of Friday.

The race in the inland district, which is centered on the Vietnamese community of Little Saigon, has been marked by claims of racism and red-baiting. Steel aimed to portray her opponent as a communist sympathizer in league with China, putting out heavily doctored mailers and videos attacking Chen. She found pushback from some in the Asian American community, and from Chen, who said the tactics were “ridiculous.”

Congressional District 47

Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine, who has become a national Democratic star, is in a close race with Republican Scott Baugh, a former Assemblyman and ex-leader of the Orange County Republican Party.

Porter was slightly ahead, at 51.2% to 48.8%, as of Friday.

The coastal Orange County district spans from Laguna Beach north to Seal Beach. Races in the area are frequently close. In 2018, it took 11 days for the contest between Porter and Republican incumbent Mimi Walters to be called.

The race between Baugh and Porter has become a symbolic battle for the ideological identity of Orange County, once a conservative bastion that has become more politically diverse in recent years.

Congressional District 49

Democratic Rep. Mike Levin and Republican Brian Maryott, a former San Juan Capistrano mayor, are vying to represent a coastal district that straddles Orange and San Diego counties, stretching from Laguna Beach to Del Mar.

Levin was ahead of Maryott, 52.1% to 47.9%, as of Friday.

The district encompasses the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and the closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

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